Atlanta Business Chronicle - July 31, 2006


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A taste of Times Square may be headed downtown


Atlanta Business Chronicle - July 28, 2006


Downtown Atlanta could soon get another boutique hotel with two large restaurants, where Peachtree Street meets Andrew Young International Boulevard.

Diplomat Companies' Chairman R.C. Patel says he wants to convert the building at 218 Peachtree St. -- once home to a Lane Bryant ladies clothing store, Planet Hollywood restaurant and, until last year, the club Level 3 -- into Atlanta's Times Square.

He's planning a 120-room boutique hotel, spacious spa and 14,000 square feet of restaurants on the site.

Patel's plans to make the hotel unique include a glitzy façade -- which would face the Hard Rock Cafe, Hooters and Westin Peachtree Plaza -- but he wants to keep details secret for now.

A Brazilian churrascaria, Fire of Brazil, and a Latin-Mexican fusion restaurant, Jalapeño Charlie's, will open in November, anchoring the development.

The site also houses the antebellum-themed Pitty Pat's Porch eatery, which will remain intact, and a 336-space parking deck.

The hotel would join a new breed of hotels cropping up around Atlanta, from the tony Glenn Hotel near CNN Center, to a new TWELVE Hotel and W Hotel that are rising at the Ivan Allen Plaza development. In addition to the under-development Winecoff Hotel, these lodges are smaller and offer unique amenities. The Glenn Hotel has a glitzy lobby-bar and is home to b.e.d. Atlanta with a rooftop bar.

Although hotel occupancies in downtown Atlanta are driven by the convention and large meetings business, smaller hotels generally are easier to fill with business and leisure travelers.

Patel said that he likes two boutique hotels in New York City, the swanky Dream and Time hotels. Both are off Times Square, and his hotel could be similar to those. The Dream Hotel has a "very yuppie" feel, said Patel, with a Deepak Chopra spa.

In November, restaurateurs Brent and Terry Gilbertson will open two restaurants. The 200-seat Fire of Brazil will be on the main floor with a large glass window facing Peachtree Street that will show off the Brazilian kitchen, where long skewers of meat are grilled for the all-you-can-eat customers.

"This is a hot corner," said Brent Gilbertson, who has two Atlanta restaurants, and soon will have two more Brazilian barbecues open in Florida.

Within half a mile, he's counted 45 hotels, including convention giants like the Marriott Marquis, Hyatt Regency and The Ritz-Carlton Atlanta.

Gilbertson also recently signed a master franchise agreement with a Bahraini businessman, who is taking the concept to the Middle East and Europe.

Jalapeño Charlie's is a new concept Gilbertson is developing with Paco Rodriguez, a 30-year veteran of the Atlanta food industry.

Brent Gilbertson said the 150-seat restaurant will have a lower price point -- about $10 to $15 -- compared with the $50 average ticket at the Fire of Brazil.

Jalapeño Charlie's south of the border menu will have tapas, tortas, salads and entrees like flautas, grilled shrimp with mango roasted vegetables and seafood paella.

Patel said he also wants to open a New York-style martini-only bar in a small space along the side of the building.

Patel purchased the building for $15.3 million. He plans to install the eight-floor boutique hotel on top of the parking deck, if engineers deem the building capable of handling the construction. He is budgeting $18 million to build the hotel, or $150,000 per room.

He plans to spend about $5 million to improve the building, including $500,000 to improve security and safety in the narrow and curvy deck.

Patel's company owns 1,400 hotel rooms, many near the Atlanta airport like two Comfort Inns, a Red Roof and a Country Inn. He doesn't own any other property downtown, he said.

He and his brother, Michael Patel, a former professional soccer player, were born in Uganda and raised in London.

They moved to Atlanta in the early 1980s, starting their Diplomat Hotel Co. with one hotel in Pell City, Ala.

Today they own more than 20 hotels in Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee and Florida.

In 2000, they also founded Haven Trust Bank to better serve Atlanta's growing minority community. The bank is approaching $275 million in assets, and they're looking to open a bank in Florida.

The Patels also helped found the Asian American Hotel Owners Association. R.C. Patel's brother-in-law, Prakash I. Patel, the company's asset manager, recently attended an Atlanta forum on immigration and the hospitality community attended by U.S. Commerce Secretary Carlos M. Gutierrez.

The Patels also are active in politics, although on different spectrums. R.C. Patel raised money for President George W. Bush, and attended the 2002 inauguration of Florida Gov. Jeb Bush. Michael Patel was appointed by President Bill Clinton in May 2000 to the Advisory Commission on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. He recently traveled with Clinton to India to raise funds for victims of the Gujarat earthquake.


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A taste of Times Square may be headed downtown - Atlanta Business Chronicle